Kafka still relevant 100 years after his death 

June 03, 2024

It has been 100 years since the writer Franz Kafka died in a sanatorium near Vienna from tuberculosis – and he is more popular than ever.

On TikTok, a collection of objects sits atop a stack of books: a string of pearls, a Diptyque candle, a Sylvanian Families rabbit figurine in a scallop-collared dress. A woman’s hand brushes them aside. She pages through the pile of books below. We see “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh and “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Also, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, a fat black bug on its cover. A question typed over the scene asks: What do you conclude about me?

Content about “The Metamorphosis” being viral on Tiktok.

The video’s creator is 25-year-old Margarita Mouka — @aquariuscat444 on TikTok, where she frequently posts about Kafka, integrating his work, his likeness and his life story into her online persona of romantic intellectualism. When her account was publicized last year, alongside those of a handful of other young Kafka-heads, media outlets were not quite sure what to conclude about her.

“Franz Kafka becomes an unlikely HEARTTHROB on TikTok — where Gen Zers are swooning over the Czech novelist nearly 100 YEARS after his death,” ran a Daily Mail headline. The article surfaced fancam-style compilations that use Kafka’s pictures as well as melodramatic readings of his letters. Baffled reactions followed in The Spectator and Literary Hub: Did they think he was … hot? Did they know he had a kind of body dysmorphia? Was Kafka the Harry Styles of the Austro-Hungarian Empire?

To Mouka, the appeal was obvious.

“I felt like that bug,” she said.

On BookTok, where a flashed book jacket conveys a glimmer of a user’s inner life, a classic text can leave a durable impression. It plays like a deep cut, reaching back through time to ground a TikToker’s content in a more enduring human experience.

Franz Kafka.

Franz Kafka was born in 1883 to Czech Jewish parents in Prague. He earned a law degree and worked by day as an insurance officer, investigating injuries from industrial accidents. He wrote at night. When he was 32, he published “The Metamorphosis,” a parable known for its opening line: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” His stories and three unfinished novels explored themes of estrangement from others and from the self, and inspired an adjective — “Kafkaesque” — for describing nightmarish encounters with impenetrable bureaucracies. He died of tuberculosis in 1924, at age 40.

Source: Amanda Hess – The New York Times

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